Is identity something you own?

Is identity something you own? Or is it something society owns?

If I walk down the street, and you meet my gaze, it’s your right to recognize me. But if I’m wearing a hoody — should you look under to confirm? What if it’s a burqa?

Online, it seems there’s a war. The first wave of internet users had no immediate identity — telnetting in, screenname, etc.. Web2.0 brought with it ugc, attribution, copyright, etc., and a layer of services that required identity: bank & corporate logins, etc.

We know there’s a limit — for example, we’ve not allowed electronic voting because there’s not yet a system we’re so confident can’t be hacked or manipulated.

But about facebook? Recently, I had a test account seized — I was using it to run experiments for an app, so I didn’t use my real identity. A message said ‘fb is a community of trust, please send us a government ID.’

How is that fun? I mean, if you come to my party and I make you take your shoes off, you’ll probably be understanding but slightly annoyed. If I charge you admission at the door, you’ll think twice about coming back. But if I ask for a copy of your ID?

That’s why snapchat is so important. I’m happy evan spiegal is a billionaire, because collectively, we’ve voted for his vision of the net. Yes — we need space where identity is important. But we also need options for anonymity, pseudonimity, and the whole range. Persistent identity is tricky in that it makes me ask the question: “is this really who I want to be remembered as?”, as opposed to being an honest snapshot of my life.

Society forgives because memories fade — but servers rarely erase data.

I’m glad snapchat is trying to fund itself using square’s payment system — or at least looking for some model outside of ‘sell user data.’ In that regard, I think the facebook generation is old — like one medium post said ‘it’s like hanging out at a dinner table with your family, wanting but not being able to leave.’

Information is power — governments, hackers, CEOs know it — in fact, everyone who has it, knows it.

People in power have a job to do — they must secure the world, and thus they’d like to control it. We’re all outraged when they don’t prevent 9/11, the boston bomding, or charlie hebdo. So it’s unfair to say ‘they can’t have any data’. But it’s a push and pull.

What I wonder is: when someone of our generation, who grew up with youtube, fb, etc., runs for office, will we elect the person who has a pristine history, no history, or a messy history?

Anyway, this has been a messy article. I typically write better when I edit. But I’m not using my real identity, so it’s alright.

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